How much Water?

I’ve been looking over the documentation and reading up on the farmbot. I’m looking to build a green house and do rain water collection for the water supply. How much water should I try to store? The latest blog post about ROI has a number of 150 gallons a month, but this has a asterisk next to it so I’m assuming its an estimation. Given the average rainfall in my area and the size of the green house I’m thinking I’ll be able to collect about 300 gallons a month, which is perfect for an IBC tote as a storage tank. The rain water system in the documentation is only a 55 gal drum but there is no mention of how much is used. I looking to build the standard size farmbot, 1mx3m, and haven’t decided yet what I would want to grow. I know the water usage will be based on the crop, so does someone know what I could expect from a water usage standpoint? Any input from someone with rain water collection experience would be awesome.

It’s next to impossible to determine how much water your gonna need so if you have the space go for 150 gallons,

I do know that each plant will need around an inch of rain a week so I calculated your garden would need 19 gallons a week (buts that for the whole garden not per plant :frowning: )

So a 55 gallon would last you around two to three weeks and the 150 would last you around seven weeks.

I’ll let you decide which is best for since I don’t know how often it rains there and water restrictions and disposal regulations you have.

Hope this helps :grinning:

Not sure if its helpful but if you do water recovery system underneath your soil then you can drastically reduce the amount of water needed. You could also recover and reuse any type of natural or synthetic fertilizers you use and not need near as many of them as well. The initial cost would be more than just having a larger tank but I think the benefits would equal out over time. If you want to get an idea of how much water they would need after such a system is in place you can look into the water savings of people using hydroponic systems. The total effect would be savings in fertilizer and water and it would be greener too.

Just food for thought

Here is a great web link on a rain barrel system.

Here is another on efficient use of water resources, with a lengthy section on the advantages of drip irrigation.

I think the farmbot has a watering feature, but I am thinking I would rather have a drip system set up that could be tied into the main controller so that the irrigation is managed by the farmbot system, but not delivered via the gantry.

The is a big question how are you watering. Hydroponic, Aquaponic and wicking garden beds with mulch use all about the same in water.

Wicking garden beds is watering from under the soil not above.

Drip Irrigation is in fact less effective than Hydroponic, Aquaponic or wicking garden beds in water usage.

The next best after Hyproponic, Aquaponic or wicking garden beds is something very old.

Yes clay pot irrigation.

Both wicking and clay pot are working with properties of soil not to over wet or under wet the area. Issue with clay pot is limit area of watering so it can be more uneven than wicking.

The reality is Drip Irrigation in fact comes in after ponic, wicking and clay pot with water effectiveness vs crop effectiveness.

Drip Irrigation has some of the issues of clay pot just worse. Plant roots cannot extract nutrients from soil if soil is too dry. Drip irrigation is does not contain the natural reactions of a clay pot or wicking so can in fact over wet soil.

Wicking and clay pots are both really old methods. Wicking requires physically building the beds to spec. Yes lots of self watering pots you see are based off wicking methods.

Hydroponics systems have a lot more inputs why a lot look at aquaponics in attempt to reduce inputs.

How many water you require is directly linked to how well your gardens are built.

Drip Irrigation is used in large field applications because reworking the soil to make the complete area wicking can be totally cost prohibiting.

bagginsdada water recovery system under garden bed most of the time is excess work and plumbing if you build the bed wicking design in the first place. There are issues with water recovery systems as well. I know this from growing citrus cuttings and losing 5000 plants worth to a soil born fungus being spread by the water recovery system. So wicking/self watering that is automatically topped up is major advantage you are able to restrict you death zone a lot more. So instead of using 5000 plants that make up a shade house you lose like 50 pot plants that are sitting in the same water tray that they are wicking water from. Unless you have had rain fall there is no major advantage in water usage having a water recovery system vs wicking based systems but there is a plant illness downside to water recovery systems. Yes you can put a water recovery system with a wicking based system to recover water when it rains and the water provide trays start over filling of course you need to treat the water. Where water recovery systems become overly expensive is water treatment so you don’t have water born disease issues. Yes treating water in case of wicking design over flow can be worth it. Having to treat the water over and over again as basic water recovery systems trigger becomes cost prohibitive very quickly.

Yes one of the downsides with hyproponics and aquaponics is water born plant diseases. With wicking you also normally only get disease spread when it has rained since normal operation the water is flowing up into the pots and it takes rain fall for them to operate the other way. Wicking technology is kinda the sweet spot for watering if it cost effective for you to-do. It can be cheaper at small scale to build a wicking bed design that install dippers and have to maintain them.

Wicking garden bed designs are extremely low maintenance watering system that you pay with the up front built cost.

Since I use wicking systems a lot I really don’t see that much point to the farmbots watering system.

Truly how much water you will need to put on a garden bed or in pots is directly linked how effective your stuff is designed then how nasty the weather conditions are.

Thanks for the responses

@bagginsdada Do you have any links for a water recovery system? I’d like to see how they are set up and run. I’ve never heard of that before

@oiaohm thanks for the info, I’m especially interested in the wicking system. Seems like a good alternative for farmbot watering. The clay pot could also work but it would be nice to know we can plant at specific locations with the farmbot. From the video it looks like it creates a grid for the plants

@roryaronson With the farmbot software will you be able to specify an exact planting location for every seed? This would work well with the clay pot watering system because you could set your pot in a known location and space your plants around it.

At this point I’m planning to collect as much rain water as feasible, which is either an 275 gal or 330 gal IBC tote.

Its part of building a recycling irrigation water system. I have worked on systems to make product plants for commercial production we have gone away from it because there is just so many ways to stuff it up. Stupid as it sounds is simpler to operate a aquaponics system than it is to run a water recovery/recycling irrigation water system and not stuff it up badly at some point.

I just find the complexity of having to treat water and the like totally not worth the time when wicking gets the same results without treatment.

Pretty much a wicking system if instead you pumped the water back to the top when needed.

Sorry to say this is wrong to say water recovery system pretty much like a wicking system they are two totally different beasts needing different handling. There is a key difference in where the plant gets exposed to possible disease infected water.

Pumping the water in the top of pot means water better be disease free. If water is infected and you pump water in the top kiss your plants good bye. Wicking system if the water is a little contaminated you may not notice it at all due to the fact bottom of plant was exposed and it got a chance to fight it off.

Issue is when you put the water in the top the disease same reason you should never tip the water in saucer of a normal pot back in the top. If the infection gets in the area where the steams join to roots you can fairly much kiss the plant good by. You can think about it like having gangrene in your finger or your neck. Wicking or bottom up watering the infection is like in your finger first where the plant gets to fight it off. Use a water recovery system to pump back to top creates a infection straight equal to the neck of plant. Water recovery systems must treat water or else suffer large failures. Bad side is treating water can end up being just as harmful to plants if it goes wrong.

Wicking can suffer some issues under adverse conditions for the processes wicking depends on like rail fall causing water flow down through soil so infecting the water source area even when this happens if the plants are fairly well developed there is fairly good odd they will fight it off. Of course this is why at times segmenting wicking systems is a good idea same with overflow that you don’t collect and a drain that you can open in case of rain fall to let the water go out bottom of wicking bed(let pest bits flush away). So pumping water back to top is something you never ever do in a wicking system.

Water recovery systems can start getting water usage like wicking, aquaponics or hydroponics but with way more risk and complexity. Most modern ponics systems cycle fill and drain the beds this cycle filling and drying the bed in fact makes a form of water treatment without chemicals also why they are not using normal soil also modern ponics systems normally don’t put water in the top inch to protect the section where the roots join to top of plant from direct infection from the water.

Possible infected water requires some form of planing where plants get exposed to it and where possible avoiding it or you set yourself up for fail.

Set up wise differences please

Yes, with the software you can sow seeds anywhere in the garden bed down to millimeter accuracy. We’re planning a feature where FarmBot can take photos of the whole garden (using the built-in camera) and then it will stitch them together and render them in the web application. In this way you could literally place your pots in the growing area any where you want, have FarmBot scan the area and show it to you on the web app, and then easily place your plants in the pots virtually.

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This is a automated wicking garden system using pots. This is about average complexity for home. Float valves to maintain water level and at most 2 valves one one inlet and one on drain per area and that is the end of your mechanicals in a complex wicking setup. When the pots are large like video in wicking normally draining the water supply is not required as the soil provides a level of water treatment/filtering before infection or concentrated salt could get to core of plant. Smaller pots you do need to be aware of weather and close the inlet off and open the outlet when rain is expected and the pots are not protected from rain. So that washed out soil infections and salts get to wash away.

Now the rules here for recycling irrigation water
Do apply to a wicking system when you have small pots and you are collecting the drained water or if you are collecting the overflow from system using larger depth wicking systems.

So yes water recovery system and wicking garden system can be in the same system. Water recovery systems refer to dealing with water that has flowed through the soil median.

Water recovery system does mean having a storage tank/area for the recovered water, does mean having filtering, does mean having treatment and does mean having a pump.
Lets say someone did exactly what you said. Just takes the water from the bottom pumped it in the top and does not have anything in the system to treat it what is the outcome. Without disease the looping waters salt content will increase and increase until it kills the plants. Wicking systems you do at times run a flush from the top to take salts out the bottom normally opening up drainage so you intentionally lose that water and a recycling water system you have to intentionally lose so much water as well.

Does not matter if it water recycling system, a ponics system or wicking system its mandatory that you loss a percentage of water due to salts or have some method to remove salts long term

People do wonder why they have failures with wicking/self-watering pots first question I ask people is how do you water them. wicking/self-watering is bottom up watering if you water them from top you cause trouble at worst plant death if you have water from the top with a wicking pot drain the tray and refill it to lose the salts.

There are three major watering systems.
Top down watering that is the normal put water on the top.
Bottom up watering what are you wicking systems and clay pot.
Flood and Drain systems that are poincs based systems.

Ponics based systems you are always water recycling.
Top down watering is far you worst when working with water recycling if the water is salt wrong you will be putting it right at the weakest point of the plant. Think of it this way where would you spray salt to attempt to kill a plant that is right where the top of plant joins the roots and that is exactly where top down is putting the water.

Flood and Drain is the next worst when it comes to water being salt wrong but the top inch of plant is protected so if you notice the root burn or upset plants you have time to fix it where top down at that point your plant is dead.

Bottom up watering most plants do cope because it natural for deeper ground water to be so far salty. Bottom up watering can end up with soil level in salt getting too high that is where flush now and again comes in(being once every 6-48 months depending on many factors). The issue with water recycling with Ponics and top down watering you do have to lose more water to keep salt balance in most cases than it takes to run the maintenance flushing on a wicking systems/bottom up watering.

Top down watering out of the three common methods is the worst at getting the all roots to the correct mosture level to use the nutrients as areas of soil trap moisture causing areas to remain over wet.

bagginsdada basically there is a lot of science to growing plants. Most of the time when something seams like a simple solution with growing plants you have missed some key bit. Between salts and infection water recovery systems are not simple processes to use. Bottom up salt is a minor problem that a pure top down not recycling system never has to deal with. Bottom up is the cheapest method to be water effective vs complexity. Even so bottom up do add complexity of bed design and flushing to clear salt built up. Flushing is a lot system than having to do water tests and add so much new water lose so much old water to keep salt under control as flood/drain and top down demand.

Even so ponics systems do have there places. Able to run high nutrient loads than you can in soil leading to faster plant growth is the advantage of ponics. Yes recycling water in a top down method requires the same amount of testing as running a ponics systems so in my mind I might has well go like aquaponics and have the faster growth rate. This is why I don’t class recycling water that viable in a top down system too much work without again in results to pay for it. Also without recycling a top down system has cause water to flow out bottom of pot/bed to be sure the pot/bed is properly wet that is why top down is never water effective without a recycling system that you have to be very careful with.

So yes I look at the watering system on the current farmbot and go that is wrong if objective is water effectiveness.

In order to maximize the amount of rain captured you would have to consider many variables. The ideal surface to collect rainwater would be a metal roof, the square footage of the catchment surface should be as big as the footprint of your greenhouse. If in a one inch rain you can catch approximately 550 gallons per 1000 square feet of collection surface then you can calculate the amount of rain you catch by using a simple calculation by dividing the square feet of the total catchment area by 1000 and then multiply that number by 550 to determine the gallons collected per one inch of rain. Multiply that by the average rainfall in your region and then you will get the amount of rainwater you need to collect. Sounds complicated but it gives you an accurate estimate. I used this method when I was having a greenhouse build by my nearest landscape design company infinity garden.